The Tohono O’odham Nation announced Friday that it will begin its long planned expansion on its Desert Diamond Casino in Glendale, following a lawsuit settlement with the state. Since the tribe first expressed interest in building a resort and casino near Glendale’s sports and entertainment district in 2009 they have faced a number of legal challenges.
The recent settlement grants the Tohono O’odham Nation the right to operate the Desert Diamond casino as a Las Vegas-style casino, with a variety of games, such as slots and blackjack. This means that the tribe can expand upon the limited version of Desert Diamond, which opened in 2015. Work for the 1-million-square-foot resort is expected to begin within the year.
The plan is expected to cost as much as $400 million and will take 20 months to complete, according to tribal officials. The expansion will bring with it five restaurants, bars and a full-scale casino, which will double the size of the current structure. As it stands, the Desert Diamond casino area covers 35,000 square feet, and in order to accommodate for the additional games it will increase to 75,000. The existing Desert Diamond will remain open to patrons during construction.
“This has been a long time coming, and we will continue to work with the community to ensure that construction proceeds smoothly,” said Andy Asselin, CEO of the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, in a written statement on June 30.
A Long Time Coming
When the Desert Diamond Casino opened in 2015 it was designated a Class 2 casino with bingo-style slots and no table games. The state of Arizona denied the casino a Class 3 gaming license, as well as a liquor license, which led to the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the tribe. Settlement was reached this past May, which let the tribe proceed with its original plan to create a Vegas-style resort and casino. In exchange, the tribe will refrain from building more casinos in the Phoenix area in the foreseeable future.
The Tohono O’odham Nation has fought long for its right for blackjack and beer. The tribe has continuously made the argument that they had every right to open a casino on the West Valley land that had been purchased through a settlement with the federal government. The tribe purchased the land in 2003 after the government installed a dam, which flooded and destroyed the tribe’s previous land. The newly acquired land had just prohibited new casinos, and the state accused the tribe of fraud. More than 15 years later, it appears the tribe will get their casino.